On Wednesday night, I was invited to a tour of the art along the new DART Green Line, scheduled to open on Sept. 14. The program is named “D’ART on the Line,” and DART invited artists, DART board members and community members to attend this special “thank you” to all the people who helped create the art and architecture at four stations: Martin Luther King, Jr. (an extension of the existing J.B. Jackson, Jr. Transit Center), Fair Park, Baylor University Medical Center and Deep Ellum.
For those unfamiliar with DART’s art and design program, a committee of individuals from the community served by each station is formed. Then an artist is hired to interpret the wishes of that committee. Sometimes these visions take the form of stand-alone works of public art, and sometimes they are enhancements to the station. Many times, they are both. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect at each station:
Emmanuel Gillespie continues his role as lead artist for the train station, an extension of the existing bus transit center. The committee wanted the two stations to reflect and reinforce a connection between the largely African-American, South Dallas population and Africa. The “Walk of Respect” is a wide avenue of pavestones designed to replicate African kuba cloths, flanked by a tall, black-painted metal fence showcasing symbols of words such as “wisdom” and “respect.” Sculptor Steve Teeters was commissioned to complete two 17-foot-tall metal “Talking Drums.” Teeters based the sculptures on drums that were used to communicate and tell stores in African tradition. He feels these types of drums would be a perfect representation of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose words, when passed, became power.
Artists and spouses Diana and Brad Goldberg initiated their creative process by taking a walking tour of Fair Park to record the forms, motifs and materials used throughout the site, paying special attention to The Hall of State. In the case of Fair Park Station, the station is the art – a present to the history of Fair Park. Fluted limestone covers the steel columns of structures that are unique to the entire DART light rail system. Two of the structures stand on the approximate site of ticket booths from the fair’s history. Likewise, they take the same approximate form of those ticket booths but use more solid, longer lasting materials – stainless steel, limestone and granite. As part of the design, light shines through the perforated metal of the canopies at night, beckoning visitors to the Fair.
Artist Karen Blessen was charged with unifying two seemingly disparate groups – the professionals of Baylor and the artists of the Deep Ellum community. What she finally realized was that, in her words, “all these people are answering a calling” to serve. Art and medicine save lives in their own ways. The large fingerprint, a symbol of human touch, in the middle of the large plaza adjacent to the station is as big as it is because it is meant to be seen by patients in the towers of the hospital. Column covers are eroded to reveal various symbols of both medicine and art – an EKG readout, more fingerprints and two hands holding a heart, which represents an artist releasing his or her gift to the world.
Probably the most covered of the new stations – thanks to Brandon Oldenburg’s and Brad Oldham’s immense, stainless steel Traveling Man sculptures – the station structure itself deserves some attention. Julie Cohn describes the area of the station, and the artwork within it, as a kind of palimpsest – the area has been written on, erased and written over countless times. The result is a series of ghostly images of the past against contemporary structures. She calls the station and her art “an amalgamation of history and time.”
DART will host its Super Saturday event on Sept. 12, in anticipation of the Green Line starting service. Each of the four stations will have “food, fun and entertainment” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.